We had a busy day planned today, so as soon as we all finished breakfast (oatmeal again for me) we got straight to work. Diego, Laksen, and I took off for the final set of suited trials of the “determination of error in biological sampling due to EVA suit constraints” study. Laksen did his first, then headed back to the hab while I did my two. These weren’t as much of a pain as the first two I did, because I’m more experienced in the suit and in the specific skills needed for this plant-gathering task. Though I did seem to collect my pencil more frequently than I did some of the plants. I took lots of pictures of Laksen’s trial and of Diego looking for extremophiles in the rocks while waiting for Laksen to finish.
Once I was done with my suit trial I headed back to the hab, where I met Laksen and Paul who had just suited up for the final assembly phase of the radiotelescope. With the aid of a drill and a big hammer we got it all done and we posed for celebratory photographs. In the afternoon I wrote up a handoff report for the next crew, who will take over the work where we had to leave off due to lack of the right kind of coaxial cable. (It’s working, and the height is adjustable, but it can’t be raised to the ideal height because the connecting cable’s too short.)
I came in after two and a half hours in my suit to a fine bowl of soup for lunch, and the welcome news that our Internet seemed to be back up to speed. We will monitor our usage closely to be sure the problem does not recur.
After lunch I worked on the radiotelescope handoff report and the Quick Guides for maintenance of the EVA suits and the GreenHab (with Laksen’s help) while Steve, Paul, and Diego went off searching for fossils, with great success. As soon as they got back, Laksen, Bianca, and I hopped on the rovers and went out on another GPS-tracking run, looking for a trail that is called Cactus Road on our map. But the map is three years old and several previous attempts to find it had failed. Perhaps it had washed out. Finally, though, we did manage to find it, and it was a gorgeous run through a spectacular canyon labeled Valles Marineris on the map. (Though I’m told the canyon at Muddy Creek is even more spectacular.) We didn’t make it to the end of the trail, but we’ll try again tomorrow. I’m getting much better at navigating bumpy terrain and stepping over obstacles in first gear, and I’m very grateful to Paul, Laksen, and Bianca for their tolerance and support.
A big wind kicked up today, making the whole hab rattle like rain on the roof, and we can see some clouds that look like heavy weather on the horizon. We made sure to cover the rovers tightly against the weather and take in all equipment from the rover garage. I feel rather proprietary toward faithful Opportunity Girl, my favorite rover, which has served me very well. The rovers, and even the EVA backpacks, have developed individual personalities for me and I will miss them when I return to Earth.